Oct 4 - Our Holy Father St. Francis
Francis was the son of Peter Bernardone, a wealthy merchant of Assisi. Peter intended that his first-born should follow him in his career. But Francis was in no way avaricious as was his father. Rather, he was very generous and in gay good humor readily disposed of anything at his command.
Our Lord, whose delight it is to show mercy to the merciful, intended too tear Francis away from the danger of worldly pleasures and draw him to Himself. He permitted Francis to become seriously ill. As Francis lay in the solitude of the sick chamber, exhausted in body, his soul was being prepared by God for higher things. He felt a great longing for perfection, and heroic self-conquest was needed as a foundation for that edifice.
When Francis recovered his health, he was one day crossing the plain of Assisi on horseback, when he met a leper. The unexpected sight filled him with horror, and he was minded to turn back. But he remembered his resolution, dismounted, and hastened to kiss the hand of the leper and then pressed on alms into it. As he remounted and turned to salute the leper once more, there was no one to be seen anywhere on the plain. Seemingly Christ has appeared to him in the form of a leper.
Francis so loved the poor that he frequently associated with them. Complying with a divine command, he also begged stones to repair three ruined churches. His father was enraged at the strange conduct, and had his son brought before the bishop of Assisi. There Francis returned to his father not only the money he had but the clothes he wore, saying: "Now I can truly say, Our Father, who art in heaven." The bishop gave him an old gardener's cloak, on the back of which Francis drew a cross with a piece of white chalk. He now begged our Lord to make known to him His will regarding the future.
Soon after, Francis was at holy Mass in the Portiuncula. Hearing the Gospel in which our Lord commissions His apostles to carry about with them neither gold, nor silver, nor two coats, nor shoes, the heart of Francis was filled with joy, for he recognized in it the will of God regarding his own life. In a coarse penitential garb, girded with a cord, without shoes, he entered upon a life of complete poverty and began to preach penance. This occurred in the year 1208. Francis was then about 26 years old.
Several companions soon joined him. When there were eleven in number, he went with them to Rome, where Pope Innocent III gave his approval to the new order. They lived in the severest poverty and in brotherly harmony, preaching penance to the people both by their example and by their words. The holy founder called them Friars Minor, so that they might always regard the virtue of humility as the foundation of perfection. He himself was so humble that, when the people proclaimed him a saint, he called himself the greatest sinner. "For," he said, "if God had given the greatest criminal the graces He has given me, he would have used them to better advantage than I have done."
The order grew rapidly. In 1219, at the renowned Chapter of the Mats, more than 5,000 brethren were gathered together. As Christ sent His apostles to preach the Gospel to all nations, so Francis sent out his brethren. He himself courageously faced the Sultan of Egypt and announced to him that salvation could be found only in Christ.
In order to open the way of perfection for all who wished to imitate his life, Francis established a Second Order headed by St. Clare, and a Third Order, for people of both sexes living in the world. His love for souls inspired him to labor for all his fellowmen.
Still, his desire to be more intimately united with God caused him to retire again and again to a solitary place to fast and pray. He was consumed with ever increasing love for the highest and greatest Good. "In the beauty of things," says St. Bonaventure, "he saw the Author of all beauty, and followed in the footsteps of his Beloved, who has imprinted His image on all created things." Drunk with love, he could call upon creatures to extol the Creator with him, and the birds joined him in singing the praises of God.
It was above all the passion and death of Christ on the Cross that filled his heart with love of his Saviour, and he strove to become as similar to the object of his love as possible. Two years before his death, on Mount La Verna, the crucified Saviour appeared to Francis in the form of a seraph and impressed on his body the marks of the five sacred wounds.
Francis knew in advance the day of his death. Painful suffering preceded it, but Francis thanked God for it and declared himself ready to suffer a hundred times more if God so willed.
Prepared by all the consolations of Holy Church, and lying on the bare ground in imitation of his Saviour's death on the cross, Francis passed to his heavenly home on October 3, 1226.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who didst enrich Thy Church through the merits of our holy Father St. Francis and the establishment of a new congregation, grant us the grace to imitate him in despising the things of this world and to merit in eternity to share the heavenly gifts. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, Religious Founder,
Mystic and Stigmatist
Few saints are as beloved as Saint Francis of Assisi who founded the Franciscans in the 12th Century. No order ever grew so fast. Francis was born Francis Bernardone in 1181 to a wealthy wool dyer who encouraged Francis to follow in his footsteps. Francis was well on his way toward this avocation, spending his youth recklessly at times with an adventurous spirit, impulsively enlisting in the war between Assisi and Perugia. One night, while sleeping on the battlefield in full gear, Francis had a mystical dream in which he saw himself returning to Assisi and entered the church of St. Damian where he heard three times Christ's words to repair His Church depicted by a crucifix that had been shattered. This dream was so pronounced that Francis, upon awakening, resigned his commission in the military, then renounced his patrimony by defrocking to the waist in front of his father, bishops and the well-to-do aristocrats of Assisi as well as the townsfolk as a gesture that he was stripping himself of all worldly possessions and consecrating himself to God by turning to a life as a mendicant preacher.
Around 1207 Francis put on the robes of a penitent and sought to lead a contemplative, secluded life. At first he had taken Our Lord's words literally, constructing with his own hands a one room Portiuncula church that still stands today inside the large church at the base of the hills leading to the town of Assisi. While reading a passage from Luke 9: 3-5 on the mission of the Apostles, Francis knew his mission was to gather a group of like-minded men for the purpose of preaching the gospel to all, especially those who could not read. Thus, he began the Order of Friars Minor and Pope Innocent III orally approved the first Rule, but not until Francis and his men had walked all the way from Assisi to Rome in hopes of gaining an audience with his holiness only to be turned away.
In a mystical dream, Innocent was shown what would happen if he turned down Francis' request and what Francis' mission truly was. Innocent sent for Francis who already was half way back to Assisi to give him word that yes, the Holy Father had approved his Holy Rule. Francis, overjoyed, shared the news with his compadres and they began to preach the gospel everywhere, fostering numerous vocations as men sought to join this holy friar, with only a brown robe, cinctured rope and sandals as their possessions.
Francis had always longed to be a martyr and yearned, like his counterpart and friend Saint Anthony to go the Morocco and preach to the heathens. Francis did go to Morocco, Egypt and then Palestine and five of his Franciscans were martyred by the Muslims, but not Francis who returned to Assisi where he, along with Saint Clare founded the Poor Clares, an order of Franciscan women dedicated to a life of contemplative, cloistered life in supporting the Friars through their sacrifices and prayers. Because his order had grown so fast, not all were the "cream of the crop" and many began to fudge here and there relaxing the rigors of the rule in respect to holy poverty. Therefore Francis, not wanting to lose them and realizing not all were cut out for a life of strict poverty, began working in 1220 on a second Rule for just this purpose establishing two branches of the Franciscan Friars, catering to the more relaxed rule, while maintaining the purity of the strict rule.
On September 14, 1224 with his health suffering greatly from numerous physical afflictions from the rigorous schedule he had maintained and almost blind, Francis received an extraordinary gift from Jesus - the mark of the stigmata, the holy wounds of Christ while in contemplation on Mount Alverno in Italy.
It was the first authenticated case of a stigmatist in the history of the Church. He was, as it were, wounded in love, and here he composed his famous "Canticle of the Sun" as well as the beautiful St. Francis' Prayer for Peace that he is most widely known for. This dedicated saint, referred to this day as "The Most Holy Father," died on October 4, 1224 at the relatively young age of 45 years old and was mourned the world over. The Franciscans remain the largest body of religious in the Church today.
Oct 6 - St Mary Francis of the Five Wounds 1715-1791
Anna Maria Rosa, as Mary Frances was christened, was born in Naples in 1715 of a family that belonged to the middle class of society. Her mother, a devout and gentle woman, who had much to contend with from her hot-tempered husband, was quite worried before the birth of this child. But St. John Joseph of the Cross, who lived in Naples at that time, calmed her and recommended special care of the child, as it was destined to attain to great holiness.
She was scarcely 4 years old when she began to spend hours in prayer, and sometimes arose at night for this purpose. Such was her desire to know the truths of the Catholic Faith, that an angel appeared to her and instructed her regularly. She had not yet attained her 7th year when she desired to receive holy Communion. Her pastor marveled at her knowledge of the Faith, as well as her ardent desire for the Bread of Angels, and felt that he could not deny her the privilege. In fact, it was not long before he permitted her to receive daily.
Meanwhile, although physically of a very delicate constitution, the little saint was making herself useful to her parents by assisting them in their work. Her father, a weaver of gold lace, was anxious to have his children help as early as possible. He found that Mary Frances was not only the most willing but also the most skilled in the work.
Mary Frances was 16 years old when a rich young man asked her father for her hand. Rejoicing at the favorable prospect, her father at once gave his consent.
But when he told Mary Frances about it, he was amazed to hear her, who had never contradicted him, declare her firm intention of espousing only her heavenly Bridegroom, and asking his permission to become a Tertiary. He became so enraged that he seized a rope and whipped the delicate girl un mercifully, until her mother intervened. He then locked her in a room, where she received only bread and water, and no one was permitted to speak to her.
Mary Frances considered herself fortunate to be able to offer her divine bridegroom this early proof of her fidelity; she regarded the trial as a pre-nuptial celebration. The earnest representations of a priest made her father, who after all was a believing Christian, realize that he had done wrong; and he consented that his daughter take the Tertiary habit and serve God as a consecrated virgin at home, as was customary in those days.
Filled with holy joy, Mary Frances now received the habit and with it the surname "of the Five Wounds." This name was prophetic of her subsequent life. At home she had much to endure. Her father never got over it that he lost a wealthy son-in-law. When God favored her with unusual graces -- she was sometimes granted ecstasies at prayer and suffered our Lord's agony with Him -- her own brothers and sisters insulted her as an imposter. Even her confessor felt obliged to deal harshly with her. For a long time she could find consolation nowhere but in the wounds of Christ.
Her confessor perceived at last that it was God who was doing these things in Mary Frances. Since her mother had died meanwhile, he saw to it that she found a home with a fellow Tertiary. There one day, as she herself lay ill, she learned that her father was near death; and she asked almighty God to let her suffer her father's death agony and his purgatory. Both requests were granted her.
Although she suffered continuously, our Lord also gave Mary Frances great graces and consolations. She received the marks of the wounds of Christ and was granted the gift of prophesy and of miracles. When Pius VI was crowned pope in 1775, she beheld him in a vision wearing a crown of thorns. Pope Pius closed his life 24 years later as a prisoner of the French Revolution at Valence.
Mary Frances also prophesied the tragic events of the French Revolution; and God heard her prayer, asking that she be taken from this world before they would happen. She died on October 6, 1791, kissing the feet of her crucifix. God glorified her by many miracles. She was beatified by Pope Gregory XVI, and canonized by Pope Pius IX in 1867.
ON CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE
1. What made Mary Frances so resolute that she never failed in courage amid her many trials, but rather advanced in holiness? The lessons of the catechism did that for her. She entertained such a longing to know them that almighty God had her guardian angel instruct her in them before she received any human instruction. Without a knowledge of Christian doctrine, as it is impressed on the heart in through catechetical instruction, man impressed on the heart in thorough catechetical instructions, man is not safe in the storms of life. Piety itself is built on sand without that knowledge; if the waters of tribulation surround it, it collapses. But the soul that is well instructed in the truths of our Faith is like the house in the Gospel: "And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded on a rock" (Matt 7:25). -- Have you properly appreciated the lessons of the catechism?
2. Consider how the lessons of the catechism should be taught to children. Before they ever learn to read or go to school, the parents and other members of the household, like visible guardian angels, should teach the children their prayers and the more important lessons of faith, so that the instructions will not be something strange to them later. The first school and the first church of the little ones should be the parental home. And when the children begin to attend instructions in school, the parents should encourage their interest by asking them questions and hearing them recite their lessons. Above all they should not neglect to send the children regularly to the instructions. Those lessons are the most necessary and the most important of their lives. The Holy Spirit speaks of their importance when He says: "From your mouth receive instructions, and even to gray hairs you shall find wisdom." (Eccli 6:18). -- How can parents be guilty of keeping their children ignorant for life of the most important matters?
3. Consider that even in later life we should not neglect the lessons of the catechism. We learn them in youth, but we must use them throughout life. That is why we should frequently review these lessons and reflect on them. Take up your catechism occasionally and re-read it. Its lessons mean much more to us as we grow older than they did when we were children. If public catechism instructions or study clubs are conducted in your parish, or is a series of sermons on these lessons is given in your church, so not fail to attend, for they offer valuable lessons for young and old. If one received money for attending them, no doubt, there would be many present who now prefer the comfort of their homes. But Holy Scripture says: "Receive my instructions and not money; choose knowledge rather than gold" (Prov 8:10). Christian doctrine is worth more than all the gold on earth. It reaches us that man is made for heaven and not for the earth; and if we live in accordance with that principle, we shall enter the kingdom of heaven when we have to leave the things of earth.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O Lord Jesus, who, together with many other graces, didst give St. Mary Frances the grace of perfect contempt of the world, grant that through her merits and intercession, we, too, may despise material things and aspire to those which are heavenly. Who livest and reignest forever and ever. Amen.
Oct 10 - St. Daniel and Companions
After the Franciscan Order had been blessed in the glorious death of its first martyrs, St. Berard and his four companions, holy rivalry was aroused among the children of St. Francis to offer their blood in preaching the Faith of Christ.
In 1227, Daniel, provincial of Calabria, a man of eminent sanctity, and six companions, Angelus, Samuel, Donulus, Leo, Hugolinus, and Nicholas, with the blessing of the minister general, went to Africa to preach the Gospel of Christ to the Mohammedans. Landing at Ceuta, they resolved to preach in that large city. Before entering the city proper, they learned from Christian merchants that a strict order prohibited entrance to all Christians. They realized that their undertaking was fraught with the greatest danger, and they prepared themselves accordingly.
On Saturday, October 2nd, they made their confession, received Holy Communion, and then spent the remainder of the day in prayer. In the evening, as our Lord
did on the eve of His sufferings, they washed one another's feet. On Sunday morning they entered the city and began to preach to the crowds in the streets and public places, boldly declaring that
salvation was to be found only in the name of Jesus. The city was in an uproar. The courageous preachers were thrown into prison. There they wrote to the Christian merchants in the suburbs:
"Blessed be God, the Father of mercies, who comforts us in all our tribulations! Our Lord has commanded us: 'Go and preach the Gospel to all creatures.' He has said: 'The servant is not greater than the Master; if men persecute you, remember that they first persecuted Me.' Struck by these words, we poor and unworthy servants of Jesus Christ have abandoned our home, and have come to preach in this country for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, and the confusion of obstinate infidels. ...And although we may have much to suffer, we are greatly comforted in the Lord, hoping He will be pleased to accept the sacrifice of our lives. To Him only be honor and glory forevermore."
A week later the prisoners were led before the governor, and an attempt was made to induce them to renounce their faith, first by promises, then by threats. All remained firm in their profession of Christ and were condemned to be beheaded.
The six companions bow knelt down before Daniel, their superior, thanked him for providing them with the opportunity of winning a martyr's crown, and asked for a final blessing. Father Daniel, amid tears of holy joy, embraced each one, blessed them, and said: "Let us rejoice in the Lord, my faithful companions, for this festive day for us! The holy angels are already coming to conduct our souls to the eternal mansions, and this day the white-robed martyrs will receive us into their holy company. Heaven is open above our heads, we shall soon be in possession of eternal happiness."
And so their heads rolled from the block, but their souls took their flight to heaven. Their remains were later taken to Spain, where many miracles occurred at their intercession. Pope Leo X canonized them in 1516.
ON VENERATING THE HOLY MARTYRS
1. In our veneration of the saints, the holy martyrs deserve special attention. We venerate in them, to an extent, the blood of Christ, since the blood they shed is like a continuation of the blood which Christ shed for us on Mt. Calvary. They sealed with their blood the truths for which Christ was crucified. By sacrificing their lives they also gave proof of their perfect fidelity and supreme charity towards Christ, thus giving all Christians an encouraging example. The willing self-oblation of the holy martyrs should impel us to venerate these heroes of the Faith and should fill us with a great love for our holy religion.
2. Consider the special way in which holy Church draws our attention to the veneration of the holy martyrs. On their feastdays the priest approaches the altar clothes in red vestments. The color reminds us of the blood the martyrs shed. In offering their blood and their lives for their holy Faith, they made the greatest sacrifice man can make. We should praise and bless them for it in the name of holy Church, whose glorious heroes they are. The red of the vestments also signifies the fire of love which God kindled in the hearts of the martyrs. That is also the purpose of the red color on the feast of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles in the form of fiery tongues and strengthened them remarkably. It is this fire of love that gives martyrdom its value. "If I should deliver my body to be burnt and have not charity, it profits me nothing" (1 Cor 13:3). Hence, on the feasts of the holy martyrs, we should praise and thank God, who gave this fire of love to so many thousands of His saints, who became witnesses of their Faith by shedding their blood.
3. Consider that the martyrs gave proof of their fidelity even before they shed their blo9od. Faithful to the call of the apostolate, they went out to face danger after due preparation. They accepted reproach and pain patiently, even cheerfully, for the sake of Christ; promises could not lure them; nor threats frighten them to abandon Him. We must imitate the martyrs in their fidelity even if we are not called upon to shed our blood for Christ. Only in that way may we hope to please them by our veneration. The glorious crown which they have won, should encourage us to remain faithful in our allegiance to Christ. Their powerful intercession will help us.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
As we rejoice, O Lord, at the crown which our brethren, Thy martyrs, have won, may it produce in us an increase of virtue, and at their intercession may it also be our comfort. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Oct 12 - St. Seraphin of Montegrano 1540-1604
Seraphin's parents were poor in earthly goods and obscure in the sight of men. But the spirit of prayer which his mother instilled in the boy was an inheritance of priceless value. The loving lessons of his mother caused Seraphin to make the firm resolve to remain innocent and become a saint.
He fostered tender devotion to the Blessed Mother and occasionally visited her shrine at Loreto, not far from his home. Once, on his way to the shrine, he found the River Potenza so high that no boatman ventured across. In his eagerness to get to the shrine, Seraphin stepped on the water, and it became like solid ground beneath him; he crossed the river on his way to the shrine and back without so much as wetting the soles of his feet.
On the death of his parents, Seraphin was subjected to a severe trial. His brother, a bricklayer and a man of a violent temper, took him into his employ; but no matter what the boy did, he received nothing but harsh words and blows in return. Seraphin bore the cruel treatment with great patience and recognized in it the way to holiness.
Desiring to consecrate himself to the service of God, he entered a Capuchin convent when he was only 16 years old. The high degree of perfection he had already attained was soon noticed and admired. His brethren were edified at his humility, charity, mortification, and self-sacrifice. Punctual in performing all the duties assigned to him, he still found time to be of service to the other brothers.
He devoted the night to prayer. In the evening he would visit the Blessed Sacrament and remain there for hours absorbed in prayer and contemplation. Then he would take a short rest, after which he would get up once more to attend the midnight office. God seemed to preserve his bodily strength in a marvelous way.
During a famine he ate but a fourth of his own meager meal, in order to have so much more to give to the poor. As porter of the convent, charged with providing for the poor, he once exceeded the bounds of obedience. For, as he had nothing more to give and there were still some poor waiting for help, he went into the garden and gathered a supply of the vegetables growing there. When his superior took him to task for it, the good brother assured him that the community would in no way suffer on his account, and that and the next morning a new growth of vegetables appeared in the garden.
The miraculous power with which God rewarded the charity of His servant continued to manifest itself. Countless sick were restored to health when he made the Sign of the Cross over them.
Seraphin endeavored, nevertheless, to withdraw as much as possible from contact with the world. While engaged in the quiet work about the convent, his heart was busy contemplating the sufferings of Christ. Consumed with the love of Him who shed His blood for love of us, he yearned to go to the infidels in order to shed his blood for Christ. Since his request was not granted, he made it a habit to pray:
Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Savior Crucified.
Inflamed with the love of God, Seraphin departed from this life on October 12, 1604, in his 64th year. Many miracles occurred at his grave, and Pope Clement
XIII canonized him in 1767. ON VENERATING THE PRECIOUS BLOOD
1. The precious Blood which Jesus Christ shed for us inflamed the heart of Seraphin with glowing love for his Lord. When Jesus shed tears at the grave of Lazarus, the bystanders said: "Behold how he loved him!" (John 11:36). But when He shed His precious Blood for us, he proved His love for us more than He could do by tears. One drop of His precious Blood would have sufficed to redeem us, but "what would have satisfied justice," says St. Chrysostom, "did not satisfy His love." He shed all His Blood, even to the last drop. He "has loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood" (Apoc 1:5). -- When your soul is refreshed with the precious Blood in holy Communion, say, as St. Seraphin frequently said: "My beloved to me and I to Him" (Cant 2:16).
2. To promote devotion to the precious Blood, a confraternity of the precious Blood was established in the 19th century. Much good has been achieved by it and many members have been enrolled. The only conditions are, to have one's name entered on the membership list and to say daily seven Glorys in honor of the seven times our Savior shed His Blood: 1) at the Circumcision, 2) at the Agony, 3) at the Scourging, 4) at the Crowning with thorns, 5) on the Way of the Cross, 6) at the Crucifixion, 7) from the open Side. Pope Pius IX, in recommending the confraternity, reminded the faithful that by way of a figure the blood of the lamb was used in Egypt to mark the houses of the Israelites, so that they would be spared from the wrath of God. He added: "Will not they who devoutly venerate the Blood of our Savior, more assuredly escape the wrath and experience the mercies of God?" -- Let us, then, devoutly venerate the precious Blood.
3). Consider that sincere veneration of the Blood of Christ should hearten us to abstain carefully from every sin and to bear the sufferings of this life in a manner pleasing to God. Our souls have been cleansed by the blood of Christ, first in baptism, and then in the sacrament of penance. "The blood of Jesus Christ, " says St. John, "cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:17). And he adds, "My little children, these things I write to you that you may not sin." For, would that not be like treading on the Blood of Christ? We should rather manifest our gratitude and return love for love by patiently bearing the sufferings sent to us and by steadfastly overcoming every temptation to sin. May St. Seraphin's intercession obtain for us a share of his heroic love of God.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who didst inflame the heart of St. Seraphin with the fire of Thy love, grant, we beseech Thee, that at his intercession we may walk in his footsteps and be inflamed with the same fire of love. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Oct 20 - Blessed James of Strepar
James was born in the 14th century of a noble Polish family of Strepar and was educated in a Christian manner by his pious parents. To escape the dangers of the world, he entered the poor order of St. Francis when he was a young man. Very soon he became distinguished among his brethren for eminent virtue, rare attainments, and zeal for the salvation of souls.
The neighboring realm of Russia presented at that time a wide field for the exercise of his zeal. Partly it was still inhabited by heathens; and where the Catholic Church had flourished for centuries, Greek schismatics had long been endeavoring to win the people from the Mother Church at Rome. With the consent of his superiors James went to Russia to preach the Gospel and to save the faithful from going astray. About 1360, he had a share in the organization of a special group of Franciscan missionaries called Societas Peregrinantium or Travelers for Christ, who did excellent work in Russia. Wallachia, and Podolia, and in 1401 extended their activities also to the Tatars near the Caspian Sea and other parts of Asia.
Father James' missionary efforts were so successful, and his apostolic virtues were so pronounced, that on the death of the archbishop of Halicz, the pope named him his successor at the request of the king of Poland in 1392. Only because he was compelled, did James accept the dignity. But even as a bishop he wore the Franciscan habit and as far as possible continued his missionary labors.
To preserve the Catholics of the old and the newly acquired districts in Christian truth, he built many new churches and convents. His large income was used only for this purpose and for the support of the poor.
To secure God's blessing on the territory entrusted to his spiritual care, he considered nothing more helpful than veneration of the Mother of God. Next to God he placed his confidence in her. Instead of the family coat-of-arms, he had the image of Mary engraved on his seal; everything he prescribed for his diocese was to have the seal of Mary. He had her image also on his pastoral ring. Every evening devotions were held in her honor in the cathedral or wherever he chanced to be; and he always attended the services. He urged the people to attend these devotions, as well as special devotions of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, for which he issued special regulations and granted indulgences.
James was also mindful of the temporal welfare of his flock. In order to check the frequent inroads of the Tatars, who were laying the country waste, he proposed such excellent measures to the Polish parliament that he was quite generally called the protector of the kingdom.
After a laborious and blessed episcopate of 19 years, God called him to receive his heavenly reward in the year 1410. Clothed in the habit of the order and wearing the marks of his episcopal dignity, he was entombed in the Franciscan church at Lwow, to which the archbishopric had been transferred from Halicz. When his grave was opened after 200 years his body and clothing were found entirely incorrupt. Later the remains were removed to the cathedral.
The continued veneration paid to him was formally approved by Pope Pius VI.
ON THE VENERATION OF MARY
1. The months of May and October are especially set aside by the Church for the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We should not, however, limit our veneration to these two months. Like Blessed James, we should venerate her throughout the year and all our life. She was the mother of the primitive Christian Church; the apostles and the first Christians at Jerusalem were gathered about her when the Holy Spirit descended. She was the bond which encircled the first Christian community with motherly love, when "the multitude of believers had but one heart and one soul" (Acts 4:32). Blessed James expected veneration of Mary to bring harmony to his diocese as well as the fruits of the Holy Spirit. May those fruits also enter our hearts, our homes, our congregations, and the whole Catholic Church. -- Is Mary truly honored in your home?
2. Consider how God Himself honored Mary. He sent one of the most eminent heavenly spirits, the archangel Gabriel, to her who at God's behest said to her: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women... Thy Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the Holy One who shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:28-35).The Holy Trinity thus entered into a most intimate union with her, since God the Father was with her, the Holy Spirit overshadowed her, and the Son of God was to be born of her. Could he who would not honor her still be called a child of God? Filled with the Holy Spirit, she herself proclaims: "From henceforth all generations shall call me blessed" (Luke 1:48). Great favors will surely be granted to him who venerates her whom the Blessed Trinity has honored. O Mary, Daughter of the heavenly Father, Mother of the Divine Son, and Spouse of the Holy Spirit, pray for us!
3. Consider that Blessed James rightly expected the veneration of Mary to bring special blessings particularly to his sacred ministry. With Mary's blessing the apostles set out to preach the Gospel, and she continually raised her hands to heaven both for those who preached the Faith and for those who accepted the Faith from them. Catholic life flourishes the more abundantly the more she is honored. Her maternal protection and powerful intercession will obtain blessings for the shepherd so that he may guide his sheep in a truly apostolic spirit, and for the flock so that it may lead a Christian life and arrive at the blessed goal.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who didst wonderfully renew the apostolic spirit in Thy blessed bishop and confessor James, we beseech Thee, grant us his intercession that we may ever adhere to Thee in faith and in true service. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Oct 20 - Blessed Contardo Ferrini 1859-1902
The city of Milan was abounded in men of learning and virtue. Our present age has revealed a new star there, which is destined to show an amazed modern generation that profound learning and humble faith can well go hand in hand.
Contardo Ferrini was born of a distinguished family on April 4, 1859. When he was still a student in high school and college he encouraged his companions to lead good lives and exercised a kind of lay apostolate among them. After winning his doctorate in law, he obtained a government scholarship to study abroad. He went to Berlin, where he studied Roman-Byzantine law, a field in which he achieved international fame. In the capital of the German empire prejudices against Catholics did not keep Professor Ferrini from publicly professing his faith. On returning to Italy, he taught in various higher institutions of learning and eventually at the University of Paris.
It must be stressed here that Ferrini's life was practically an unbroken elevation of his soul to God. His keen intellectual ways penetrated to the Last Principle of all things. "Our life," he said, "must reach out towards the Infinite, and from that source we must draw whatever we can expect of merit and dignity."
Every day he approached the Holy Table. He made a short meditation daily, and also read from Thomas a Kempis. His favorite books were those of the Bible. The better to savor the spirit of their contents, he read them in the original languages, of which he had a perfect command. Like another Joseph of Egypt, he preserved his purity unsullied amid the dangers of big city life. He practiced many and varied mortifications to arm himself against harm.
In 1886 he joined the Third Order of St. Francis, and for the rest of his life he faithfully observed its rule. He also enrolled himself in the St, Vincent de Paul Society. In his speeches and writings as well as in his conduct, he made it a point to show that faith and science are not only opposed to each other, but that faith is rather a shield to protect us from error and guide us to true heights.
In 1900 Contardo Ferrini was afflicted with a heart lesion in consequence of excessive labor. In the autumn of 1902, feeling the need of rest, he repaired to his country house at Suna. There, however, he was stricken with typhus. Due to his weakened condition, he was unable to resist the malignant fever, and died on October 17, 1902, at the age of 43.
The high esteem in which the deceased was held, now became evident. Letters of condolence from the professors of the university praised him as a saint. The people of Suna promptly expressed a desire to see him numbered among the saints. The demand for his beatification grew more insistent with time, and there was universal rejoicing when in 1909 Pope St. Pius X appointed Cardinal Ferrari to begin the process. Pope Pius XI conferred on him the title Venerable in 1931; and Pope Pius XII beatified him in 1947.
ON THE HOLY SCRIPTURES 1. Holy Writ is not the only source of faith. It is incomplete for one thing, for St. John says: "There are also many other things
which Jesus did" (John 21:25). Then, too, the prophecies about the kingdom of heaven which Christ gave His apostles before His ascension, are not recorded. And from the Epistles of St. Paul (1 Cor
5:9 & Col 4:16) we learn that part of the Scriptures have even been lost. Although Contardo Ferrini entertained great love for the Scriptures, he did not regard them as the only authority in
matters of faith, but paid equal respect to the teachings of Holy Church. -- Scripture and the appointment to teach go hand in hand.
2. Holy Writ most not be our only source of faith. Christ did not say, "Distribute Bibles!" But He did say, "Teach all nations!" (Matt 28:19). Holy Writ itself ought to assure us that it is the only source of our faith if that were the case; but nowhere can we find a statement to that effect. Neither is the meaning of Holy Writ plain to all who read it. Nowhere do we find it stated just what belongs to holy Writ; our separated brethren have learned that from the teachers of the Catholic Church. -- Let nothing and nobody keep you from heeding the teachings of the Catholic Church.
3. At no time was Holy Scripture used as the only source of faith. Certainly not in the beginning of Christianity; for then the Gospels and Epistles had not yet been written and distributed. Nor at any later time; for even Protestantism has not held the Bible to be the only rule, since the observance of Sunday, the baptism of infants, and may other practices are not mentioned in the Bible. Should non-Catholics reproach you for neglecting the Bible, let your answer be: Holy Scriptures tells us nowhere that we should read the word of God, but it does tell us to hear the word of God. From Sunday to Sunday, the Catholic Church gives us the explanation of the Scriptures. Intelligent and leading Protestants themselves complain of the mischief done by the so-called free interpretation of the Bible. As far as reading the Bible is concerned, good Catholic read and pray it often in the prayers of the liturgy, especially the missal and the divine office. And the Church has granted an indulgence to the faithful who spend at least a quarter of an hour in reading Holy Scripture with the great reverence due to the word of God and after the manner of spiritual reading.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
May the faithful, O Lord, be strengthened by Thy graces, that having received them, they may yearn for still more and through this yearning receive them anew in greater measure. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Oct 21 - Blessed Josephine Leroux 1748-1794
Josephine entered the convent of the Poor Clares at Valenciennes when she was 22 years old. In 1770 she made her vows. Then the French Revolution broke out, and the religious were rudely driven from their convents. Josephine at first returned to her family. But when Valenciennes was captured by the Austrians, Josephine could not resist the impulse to return to the enclosure. However, the convent of the Poor Clares at Valenciennes had not yet been rebuilt, and she took refuge in the convent of the Ursulines, where her own sister lived.
But the victorious revolutionary army retook the city, and Josephine was placed under arrest as having been disloyal to her country. Without being in any way perturbed, she confronted the band of soldiers who came to arrest her and she said, "It was hardly necessary to make so much ado for the purpose of taking a weak woman captive!" Then, having served her captors with refreshments, she followed them to prison.
Because she had resumed the life of a religious contrary to the laws, Josephine was condemned to death. With holy serenity and perfect resignation to God's holy will she accepted the death sentence and prepared for it by receiving the Bread of Heaven for her journey to the Divine Bridegroom. With a cheerful countenance she went out to the place of execution, singing sacred hymns along the way. She declared herself truly fortunate at being deemed worthy to give her life for the Catholic Faith. "Could anyone fear to leave this place of exile," she said, "when he reflects on the beauty of Paradise?"
At the scaffold she gratefully kissed the hand of the executioner, and in a clear voice forgave everybody. Then she placed her head on the block. Her sister, Mary Scholastic, and four other companions died a martyr's death with her. This occurred on October 23, 1794. Pope Benedict XV enrolled her among the blessed.
ON THE TEST OF LOVE
1. The test of love is sacrifice. Christ met the test in the sacrifice of the Cross, and He demands of those who love Him that they prove their love by the test of the cross. Blessed Josephine knew this and desired to show her loyalty to her Lord. So, after being forced to leave her convent by the evil authorities, she returned to the enclosure of a convent despite the risk it involved. She was arrested and willingly made the sacrifice of her life for the love of Christ. -- Are we as ready and as courageous in showing our love for Christ?
2. We can and must make sacrifices in this life. There are thousands of opportunities offered for making small sacrifices for which we need no permission. Let us make them with love and generosity, for it is love that gives value to sacrifice. Each time we deprive ourselves of anything for Jesus' sake, we are thinking of Him and loving Him. -- Does He not deserve that much from us?
3. One of the noblest acts of sacrifice is the conquest of self-love. Our Lord builds His sanctuary on the ruins of self-love. "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30). But to decrease is not enough in this matter. Self must disappear, so that we can say: "I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me" (Gal 2:20). The secret of sanctity consists in loving much, but this love presupposes interior and daily warfare. Let us be generous, let us be valiant, so that, like Blessed Josephine, we may in the end also be victorious by passing the test of love.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
Pour into our hearts, Lord Jesus, fear and love for Thee, so that through the merits and example of the holy virgin Josephine, we may rather choose death than ever consent to offend Thee. Who livest and reignest forever and ever. Amen.
Oct 22 - St. Peter of Alcantara 1499-1562
Peter was born at Alcantara in Spain in 1499. Already as a child he manifested a remarkable gift of prayer, so that at times, when he became absorbed in prayer, the servants were unable to get any response from him.
At the University of Salamanca Peter resolved to join the Franciscan Order. The tempter left nothing undone to depict the comfortable life he could lead in the world and still have time for the practices of piety. But humble prayer overcame the seductions of the evil one. Peter set out for the quiet convent of Monjarez. On the way our Lord gave him a signal assurance of his vocation. Peter came to a stream which, because of heavy rains, had overflowed its banks considerably. Seeing no means at hand with which to cross, he knelt down and asked God for help. Suddenly, without knowing how, he found himself on the other side.
Once received into the order, he gave himself up completely to union with God. He kept so strict a guard over his senses, that a year later he could not say whether the church in which he prayed each day had a vaulted roof or a flat one. His body seemed to have given to him only to inflict pain upon it. The mortifications he practiced upon divine impulse were amazing. For more than 20 years he wore an iron belt studded with sharp points which pierced his flesh, and for more than 40 years he daily scourged himself till he bled. At first he was much troubled with sleepiness, but he so mortified himself that in time he got along with one and a half hours sleep in a day; and this rest he took while sitting on the floor.
God showed His approval of these mortifications by sustaining Peter's strength in a remarkable way. He never tired of going from place to place to give missions, and his success was so astounding that St. Francis Borgia once wrote to him: "Your remarkable success is a special comfort to me." His various activities, however, in no way diminished his spirit of prayer. He lived and toiled in this spirit, and endeavored to impart it to others.
The sufferings of Christ were the special object of his devotion. As Christ sacrificed Himself for us, Peter found nothing too difficult in His service; and as Christ atoned so severely for our sins, Peter practiced the most rigorous penance. The custom of erecting a cross at the close of a mission had its origin with St. Peter of Alcantara. Whenever feasible, he had the cross erected on an elevation, so that it could be seen all over the parish. On one occasion he was so literally carried away with devotion that he sped through the air to such a cross, where with arms outstretched he prayed a long time, while rays brighter than sunlight proceeded from his person.
He wrote a little treatise on prayer and meditation which is celebrated the world over. Pope Gregory XV declared that it was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The great mistress of prayer, St. Theresa, who lived at that time, wished to have the saint for her spiritual director; and he aided her in reforming the order of Carmel.
He was a very humble man, and fled from honors. Emperor Charles V wanted him for his confessor, but Peter begged him not to press his request since he could easily secure more learned and eminent men. In the order itself he was obliged to accept the position of provincial, and due to his efforts his province rose to a flourishing state of religious discipline. Provincial though he was, he did not hesitate on occasion to perform the lowliest duties in the house.
He was humble and charitable in his judgements. A nobleman was once decrying the various evils which were rampant. The saint said: "Truly, matters in the world are in a bad state; but if you and I begin in earnest to reform ourselves, a really good beginning will have been made."
On October 18, 1562, he died peacefully in the Lord. St. Theresa saw his soul take its flight to heaven. Later he appeared to her and said: O happy penance that has merited for me such wondrous glory!" Many miracles, including the raising of six dead persons to life, occurred in answer to prayers addressed to him. Pope Clement IX enrolled him among the saints.
ON THE REWARD OF PENANCE
1. St. Peter practiced rigorous penance all his life, and what a marvelous reward it merited for him! He used to say: "I have made a contract with my body: it has promised to accept harsh treatment from me on earth, and I have promised that it shall receive eternal rest in heaven." The reward of penance can be ours if we wish it. And we have more reason to practice penance, since we have not lived from our youth as did St. Peter, but have committed many sins. It is not necessary to imitate him in his unusual penances -- without the consent of our confessor it would not even be right to do so -- but we can renounce sensuality and atone for our sins by a penitential life. Then our present tribulation will obtain for us "above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor 4:17).
2. Consider that none of us can say we have no need of penance; only a lukewarm soul could make such a statement. Even if we were stainless from birth, we should still be obliged to mortify ourselves. Blessed Brother Giles was once asked why St. John the Baptist lived so penitential a life. Brother Giles asked by way of reply: "Why do we salt fresh fish? Is it not for the purpose that it may not decay?" Though you may be quite unspoiled and blameless, yet you should apply the salt of Christian mortification and penance, that you may persevere and appear faultless before the judgement-seat of God.
3. Consider that the spirit of penance and mortification also nourishes the spirit of prayer and devotion. He who serves the appetites of the flesh and grants them all they desire, cannot raise his heart to God in prayer. "The sensual man perceives not those things that are of the spirit of God" (1 Cor 2:14). To be able to pray, you must bridle your senses -- eyes, ears, tongue -- and withdraw from the world. "When you are about to pray, enter into your chamber and shut the door" (Matt 5:6). If you shut the door of your heart in the spirit of penance, you will easily raise it to God and enjoy His Consolations. Pray to St. Peter of Alcantara for this purpose. St. Theresa says that God revealed to her, that whatever would be requested in the name of St. Peter would be granted.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who didst bestow on St. Peter, Thy confessor, the gifts of marvelous penance and lofty contemplation, grant, we beseech Thee, that with his merits pleading for us, we may so mortify the flesh as to embrace more readily the things of heaven. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Oct 23 - St. John of Capistrano 1385-1456
Toward the end of the 14th century the kingdom of Naples was the scene of many wars. Among those who had been drafted to serve in the army was a German knight - others say he came from France - who married a young woman of great piety in Capistrano and then took up his abode there. St. John was born of these parents on June 24, 1385, and was later identified as Capistran, from Capistrano, the place of his birth.
After he had completed his studies in law at the University of Perugia, he became a lawyer in Naples, where he gained so admirable a reputation for his honesty and ability that King Ladislas frequently called him in for advice.
John was not yet 30 years old when the king made him governor of Perugia. Having tasted of the good fortune of this world, he was soon also to experience its instability. He had repaired to a neighboring town, where war had broken out, in order to arrange for a peaceful settlement. He was treacherously seized, loaded with heavy chains, and thrown into prison. No one bothered about releasing him. Then, quite strangely, a Franciscan surrounded with light appeared to him, and invited him to leave this unstable world and enter his order. Capistran replied: "I had never thought about embracing such a life; still, if God so wills it, I will obey."
At a great price he now obtained his freedom and begged for admission at the convent of the Franciscans in Perugia. After a rigorous trial of his humility, he received the holy habit on October 4, 1416. Form the very first he was earnestly minded to put off the old man and put on the one in justice and holiness. Because of the extraordinary circumstances surrounding his call to the religious life, he was frequently subjected to severe trials; but his virtue and divine calling always shown forth in increased brilliance. Rigorous mortification, perfect obedience, and a fervent devotion to the bitter Passion of Christ distinguished him among his brethren. He was also a devout client of our Blessed Lady, and felt certain that without her assistance it would not be possible for him to obtain the palm of victory.
When he began the study of theology under St. Bernardin of Siena shortly after he had pronounced his vows, it seemed as if he acquired his holy science more through divine inspiration than through human reflection, so that his saintly master once said: "John achieves more in his sleep than others who study day and night." St. James of the March was one of his fellow students. It appears that God caused to be brought together these three great men, who were faithfully to join their forces throughout their lives to promote the perfect observance of the rule in the order, as well as to combat the immorality of that time. Capistran was destines, however, to be the most conspicuous hero in this fight.
While still a deacon, he was sent out to preach in 1420; but not until 1425 did he begin his apostolic ministry. He began in Italy by taking up the struggle against vice. His former position in the world made him acquainted with the enormity of the evil, against which he now rose like another Elias. His burning words, his ardent zeal, and the holiness of his life caused veritable miracles of conversion. People came from every side to hear him, soon no church was large enough to accommodate the crowds. Sometimes 50,000, 80,000, and even more than 100,000 persons would gather about his pulpit in public squares and broad fields to listen to his sermons. His very appearance touched their hearts.
The holy orator could portray the glories of God and His justice, the depravity of vice and the beauty of virtue, the Passion of Christ, the power of the name of Jesus, and the charity of our Blessed Lady so marvelously that the most hardened sinners were converted, while apostates and unbelievers turned to God and the Church. His presence was requested everywhere, and he was received like an angel from heaven. But amid the demonstrations of honor, the servant of God would always say: "Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Thy name give glory."
The pope once entrusted him with the mission against a certain heretical sect, and the eminent success of his labor caused him thereafter to be sent by Popes Martin V, Eugene IV, Nicholas V, and Callistus III as apostolic nuncio to northern and southern Italy, to Sicily, and other countries, to preach against the enemies of the Church.
The last five years of his active life were devoted to missionary labors in Germany. Emperor Frederick III begged the Holy Father in 1451 to send the renowned missionary to him to put a check on the scandalous advances of the heretical Hussites. John wended his way through Carinthia and Styria to Vienna. From there his progress led him to Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, Bavaria, and Thuringia; and then back again to Poland, Transylvania, and Russia. The most astonishing miracles confirmed his words. He cured innumerable sick persons, raised dead people to life again, and with only his mantle spread upon the waters, crossed rivers with several companions. Seeing these prodigies, some of the most obdurate heretics were converted, and hundreds of young people asked for admission into the order.
During his mission against the enemies of the Church at home, great dangers arose abroad, threatening Christendom itself. Mohammed II had captured Constantinople in 1453, and was determined to force all Christians in the West to submit to Mohammedanism. His first objective at this time was Germany. He had already reached Hungary and was advancing on the fortress of Belgrade. There seemed to be little chance of saving it; the only hope of salvation seemed to lie in the hands of Capistran. He would lave to rouse the princes and the people to a crusade against the Turks. Pope Callistus III proclaimed the crusade and appointed Capistran to preach it.
Although he was now 70 years of age, and so reduced by labor and austerity that he seemed to be nothing but skin and bone, the saint rushed, like the flying messenger of Christ that he was, about Germany and Hungary, summoning volunteers for the war against the enemy of the Christian name. With the troops he had assembled, he then hastened to Belgrade to aid the gallant warrior Hunyady.
An army of several thousand Turks was encamped before the fortress, but Capistran did not allow that to frighten him. Filled with confidence in the holy name of Jesus, which was given the soldiers as their standard, and holding aloft the cross with the banner on which was inscribed the holy name, while frequently calling on the holy name with a loud voice, he led the troops against the enemies, who were at least ten times stronger than the Christians. But the power of the Lord of Hosts and the efficacy of the holy name were to be marvelously manifested. More Turks were slain in the attack by the enthusiastic warriors of Christ than the number of the Christian soldiers, and the rest fled in panic. Once more Christian Europe was saved.
This glorious victory on the feast of St. Mary Magdalen in 1456 was destined to be the crown of John's activities. He fell ill soon afterwards, and died in the Franciscan convent of Illok in Hungary on October 23rd. Glorified by God after his death with numerous miracles, he was canonized by Pope Alexander VIII in 1690.
THE LIFE OF A CHRISTIAN IS WARFARE
1. As St. Capistran fought for the Church of Christ, so must every Christian fight for his soul. Christ Himself has said: "I came not to send peace but the sword" (Matt 10:34). With the sword of Christ, that is, with His doctrine and His means of grace, as well as with His merits and His promises, we must do battle against the world and not let it attract us with its allurements. "Know you not, says St. James (4:4), "that the friendship of this world is the enemy of God?" Hence, keep on your guard against the children of this world. Thank God, inasmuch as He keeps you from mingling with this wicked world, even if it be through suffering and affliction. "We are chastised by the Lord, that we be not condemned with this world" (1 Cor 11:32). -- What are your sentiments concerning the world?
2. Consider that even though we may have withdrawn ourselves from the world, we shall still have enemies. "A man's enemies, " says Christ, "shall be they of his own household" (Matt 10:36). At times our own relatives stand in the way of our salvation and perfection with selfish interests. Hence our Lord adds: "He who loves father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me" (Matt 10:37). This may seem a hard saying to some, but it is God's word. In reality, we are our own worst enemy. Self-love, vanity, and sensuality seek to destroy our soul, that they may have their gratification. That is the tinder supplied by original sin; it came from hell and leads to hell. "If you live according to the flesh, you shall die" (Rom 8:13). Hence, die now to your inordinate desires so that you may not die the eternal death.
3. Consider that the devil, who led our first parents to commit sin, continues to assail the human race. "Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in high places" (Eph 6:12). As invisible as the air that surrounds us, the wicked enemy struggles against us. Sometimes he incites wicked persons against us, sometimes he stirs up the passions in our hearts: revenge, impatience, pride, avarice, impurity. Let us then, "take the shield of faith," remembering whither sin leads, and "take the helmet of salvation" in the hope of eternal bliss, which the true soldier of Christ looks forward to, and draw "the sword of the spirit, by all prayer and supplication" (Eph 6:16-18). -- With the battle-cry of St. Capistran, "Jesus and Mary!" you, too, can rout the enemy and win the victory.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who didst marvelously exalt Thy Church through the merits and teachings of St. John, and through him didst lead the faithful to triumph over the faithless tyrants by the power of the most holy name of Jesus; grant, we beseech Thee, that through his intercession, we may obtain the victory over our enemies here upon earth, and merit to receive with him the reward in heaven. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Oct 26 - Bl Bonaventure of Potenza -1711
Bonaventure was born of poor but virtuous parents in Potenza in the kingdom of Naples. A pious priest gave the boy instructions in Latin. At the age of 15, Bonaventure received the Franciscan habit among the Conventuals. After his profession, he resumed his studies with great ardor, but his zeal for perfection was less ardent.
His superiors sent him to Amalfi, where he lived eight years under the guidance of an eminent director of souls. This spiritual director trained his pupil above all in humility, self abnegation, and obedience, and Bonaventure achieved a high degree of perfection in these virtues.
One day Bonaventure told his master that the key to the sacristy was lost. "Well," said his master with a smile, "then you will have to look for it in the well; get a rod and fish it out." Promptly Bonaventure went to the well and with rod and line fished for the key. It was not long before he actually drew it out. God rewarded him in a miraculous manner for his blind obedience.
As a priest he labored with remarkable success. His words, conduct, prayer, and mortification combined to produce blessed results. His simple sermons made a deep impression on all hearts. At times a single word of his was enough to move the most hardened sinner to contrition.
At various times he was appointed guardian of a convent, but his humble pleas were always successful in changing the mind of his superiors. Obedience at length compelled him to accept the position of novice master. In this office he sought to inculcate in his pupils above all the practice of humility and obedience.
An epidemic broke out among the townsfolk, and Bonaventure at once sacrificed himself. Fearless of contracting the disease, he hastened from end to end of the town, rendering every possible service to the stricken, even the lowliest, and administering the sacraments to them. He cured many miraculously; he multiplied their insufficient provisions by his blessing, and he foretold future events.
After Bonaventure had been a shining model of virtue among his brethren for 45 years, he felt that his last hour was at hand. While the community gathered about his bed during the administration of the last sacraments, the dying man in touching words begged pardon of his superior and the community for his many faults and infractions of the rule, as he called them.
Deeply moved, the superior handed him the crucifix, and amid abundant tears the servant of God kissed the feet of the Savior, and then died peacefully on October 26, 1711. Pope Pius VI beatified him in 1775.
ON SPIRITUAL PRIDE
1. Consider in Blessed Bonaventure the example of a saint who began with humility, advanced by humility, and reached the pinnacle of sanctity by humility. So much is sanctity bound up with humility. It rests on humility as its foundation, only by means of this virtue can it increase, and humility alone makes it possible to persevere in sanctity unto a blessed end. Learn from this how destructive spiritual pride must be. Anybody who is leading a religious life or striving after Christian perfection and proudly considers himself better than others or presumes to think he amounts to anything in the sight of God, has a worm gnawing interiorly at all the good and pious practices he performs. He actually amounts to nothing before God, and if he persists in being proud he will eventually be lost. When spiritual pride is laid hold of the angels, they were cast into hell and became devils. Then the devil seduced our first parents by making them believe they would be like God. -- Does he perhaps use the same ruse to tempt you?
2. Consider how pride, like a smooth serpent, creeps in unobserved. It is part of our fallen nature. "Nature," says Thomas a Kempis (3:54), "labors for its own interests; it willingly receives honor and respect, but is afraid of shame and contempt." Hence it happens that we take pleasure in thinking of our good works and advantages, always speaking about ourselves, and in setting ourselves up as models for others. "Not he who commends himself, is approved, but he whom God commends" (2 Cor 10:18). Recall the parable of the proud Pharisee and the humble publican, which our Lord addressed to those who trusted in their justice while they despised the rest of men. "This man went down into his house justified, rather than the other" (Luke 18:14). -- Which of the two do you resemble?
3. Consider how we should struggle against pride and self-sufficiency. We must often plead with God as did the Wise Man: "O Lord, Father and God of my life, leave me not to their devices. Give me not haughtiness of my eyes, and turn away from me all coveting" (Eccli 23:4-5). Then, too, for our humiliation, we should reflect on our faults and our sins. Just as the proud peacock, on spreading its brilliant feathers, immediately drops his wings when he sees his ugly feet, so will a look at our failures soon chase away pride. Finally, imitate Blessed Bonaventure by exercising yourself in acts of obedience and humility. Think of Mary, who called herself a handmaid of the Lord at a time when an angel announced God's greatest prerogatives of grace to her. Say to God: "O Lord I am Thy servant and the son of Thy handmaid" (Ps 115:7).
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
O God, who didst propose Blessed Bonaventure, Thy confessor, to us as an admirable example of obedience, grant, we beseech Thee, that like him we may deny our will and adhere to Thy commandments. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
from THE FRANCISCAN BOOK OF SAINTS
edited by Marion Habig, ofm
Copyright 1959 Franciscan Herald Press
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